Archive for June, 2011

Skype 2.0 for Android adds video calls

June 30th, 2011


Hot off the heels of its iPad-optimized app release, Skype, the popular VoIP service, makes another splash with an update for its Android-toting user base. Skype for Android has jumped to version 2.0, and at long last, it lets Android users make and receive video calls–well, it lets a few of them anyway. See, the new video-calling capability is, at the moment, only available to users running Android version 2.3 on the following devices: HTC Desire S, Sony Ericsson Xperia neo and pro, and the Google Nexus S. If you’re counting, that’s only four devices. While the new feature is indeed a big deal, that’s still only a very small contingent of Android users who have something to be excited about today. For the rest of us, we’ll have to wait until the folks at Skype make the functionality compatible with the rest of the gamut of Android devices.


From the new app, users can make video calls just as easily as on the desktop version. They simply have to go to a contact and hit the Skype Video Call button. While in a video call a user has the option to Mute, End, or access the video menu. If a regular voice call comes in (not through Skype), and the user accepts, the Skype call will be placed on hold. Video quality will depend upon network conditions, with a strong Wi-Fi connection presumably being optimal.

Video calling isn’t the only change, however. The new Skype 2.0 for Android also has a completely updated look and feel. Now, the application launches to a cleanly designed Home screen with icons for all your basic functions. You can also change your mood message (Skype’s version of a status update) right from the top of the Home screen. We definitely prefer it to the old, tabbed interface.

Weighing approximately 10MB, plus another 15MB for user account data (for an average user), the new application is a hefty one. Fortunately, Skype 2.0 still lets you install to your phone’s SD card.

With Skype’s newly updated app along with Qik’s April announcement of cross-platform video calling, it appears Apple’s FaceTime may just have a fight on its hands.

Angry Birds Seasons celebrates summer with pig update

June 29th, 2011

The Birds are back for some summer-picnic fun--30 levels' worth.

The Birds are back for some summer-picnic fun–30 levels' worth.

Screenshot by Rick Broida)

If you haven’t updated your apps lately, there’s a nice surprise awaiting you in the App Store: Angry Birds Seasons 1.5.1. (Note: That link is for iTunes. Android users can find the game in Android Market.)

Instead of a holiday-themed update, this one actually involves a season: Rovio has added 30 new levels (twice as many as in most previous updates) under the banner “Summer Pignic.”

If you’re even the least bit familiar with the game (and who on the planet isn’t?), you know that these seasonal updates have been arriving steadily.

In fact, here’s a little Angry history for you: after Angry Birds Halloween scared up mammoth business last year, Rovio filled players’ stockings with free Christmas-themed levels–and changed the app’s name to Seasons. (Seems like “Holidays” would have made more sense, but whatever.)

In February, things turned romantic with new Angry Birds levels for Valentine’s Day. In March, the Birds celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with more new levels. And a month later, April brought not only showers, but also Easter pigs wearing bunny ears.

As with all previous updates, this one’s free. If you’re the last remaining person who’s new to Angry Birds, the 99-cent app comes with all the previous levels as well–for a grand total of nearly 150. That’s a fairly decent amount of bird-flinging bang for the buck.

The question is, what will happen to Seasons after this? Summer Picnic would seem to indicate no new levels until autumn, and the next big holiday around then is Halloween again. (Unless Rovio has a Labor Day update in the works, which seems iffy. And I’m not holding out much hope for Angry Birds Rosh Hashanah.) Could this be the end for Seasons?

Angry Birds Seasons 1.5.1 is available for Android, iPhone/iPod, and iPad.

Editors’ note: This post originally had the wrong name for the update. It is Angry Birds Seasons: Summer Pignic!

Originally posted at iPhone Atlas

Phone-tree app makes calls so you don’t have to

June 29th, 2011
Mr. PhoneTree

Mr. PhoneTree


Are you coaching a soccer team? Hosting a party? Managing a mobile sales fleet? Wouldn’t it be fantastic to have a way to quickly and automatically contact everyone involved, without having to make the same phone call over and over?

That’s the idea behind Mr. PhoneTree, a new iPhone app that can call, e-mail, and/or text-message as many people as you want–and even request and track responses.

Think about it. You need to remind a dozen parents about soccer practice. You need to tell invited guests that the party has been moved to an indoor location. You want to let friends and family members know that the new baby was born at 8:53 p.m. and she and Mom are doing fine.

Mr. PhoneTree can handle those and other situations in which you don’t want to call each and every person yourself. The app supports simple broadcasts, confirmed delivery (in which it keeps trying to connect with each person until it receives a confirmation), and even surveys (like asking people to RSVP for an event).

All you do is choose the people you want to contact (from your your iPhone address book or an imported Excel spreadsheet), then create a template for the reminder or message you want to send. (That’s a nice perk, as it allows you to send the same message in the future if needed.)

The app itself is free, but you have to purchase credits (in bulk) for your outbound messages. (The developer provides 25 to get you started.) Credits start at $4.99 for 75, and get cheaper the more you buy (180 for $9.99, 450 for $19.99, and so on). Simple broadcasts cost one credit per call, e-mail, or SMS, whereas the other methods might run two or three.

I definitely recommend watching the tutorial video so you can see how Mr. PhoneTree works. While the interface is quite simple once you learn the process, it’s not immediately clear how to get started.

This app is really, really cool. When I was coaching my daughter’s soccer team, I would have killed for this sort of thing.

Originally posted at iPhone Atlas

Windows Phone 7 lands Angry Birds

June 29th, 2011
Angry Birds is available in the U.S. and internationally.

Angry Birds is available in the U.S. and internationally.

Stephen Shankland/CNET)

After a long wait, Windows Phone 7 owners can now get their hands on Angry Birds.

The phenomenally popular game, which lets users slingshot angry birds through obstacles to attack pigs, is available for $2.99 to U.S. Windows Phone 7 owners. It’s also available internationally. To let users get a feel for the game before buying, developer Rovio is offering a free trial.

The Windows Phone 7 price on Angry Birds might surprise iPhone and Android handset owners. The game is currently available in Apple’s App Store for just 99 cents. In the Android Market, users can download a free, ad-supported version of Angry Birds.

Angry Birds has taken a long road to get to Windows Phone 7. Last fall, Microsoft posted a Web site for its Windows Phone 7 platform that included an Angry Birds icon, indicating the game was coming to handsets at launch. However, Rovio quickly responded on its Twitter feed, saying that it had “not committed to doing a Windows Phone 7 version” of Angry Birds. It went on to say that “Microsoft put the Angry Birds icon on their site without our permission.”

Microsoft responded, saying the Angry Birds icon was mistakenly added to the site, and took it down.

Following the spat, Microsoft announced in February that Angry Birds would arrive on its mobile platform in “late spring.” However, last month, WinRumors reported that the game was delayed from its original May 25 launch date to June 29.

Earlier this month, Rovio partnered with Roku in a deal that will see Angry Birds, Angry Birds Seasons, and Angry Birds Rio come to Roku’s Channel Store. The games will be available in new Roku hardware launching this summer.

Originally posted at The Digital Home

Get WonderFox DVD Ripper 2.5 (Win) for free

June 29th, 2011

WonderFox DVD Ripper normally sells for $40. Today, it's free.

WonderFox DVD Ripper normally sells for $40. Today, it's free.

WonderFox Soft)

Let’s continue Unofficial Free-Stuff Week here at the Cheapskate, shall we? (Freebie Tuesday was a big hit, and I hope some of you were able to nab the free iPhone games I posted on Monday.)

From now until July 3, you can get WonderFox DVD Ripper free of charge, no strings attached. Regular price: $39.95.

Just enter your name and e-mail address, then click Send Email. Developer WonderFox Soft promises you’ll receive your registration code within 24 hours. (If yours doesn’t arrive, be sure to check your spam filter.)

To clarify: when you initially download the program, it will be unregistered–a trial version, in essence. When you paste in the registration code you get via e-mail, that will make it the full, free program.

So, why do you need a DVD ripper? To turn those silver platters of yours into digital files you can watch on other devices.

WonderFox, for example, can convert your “Party Down” discs to a format compatible with iPhone, iPod, or iPad; Xbox, Wii, or PS3; Android and BlackBerry phones; Apple TV; and so on. Indeed, it supports virtually every output format known to man.

(By the way: “Party Down”? Best show you never watched and probably never heard of. As it happens, it’s available for streaming on Netflix. Highly recommended.)

If you’re a laptop or Netbook user, you can rip your movies to a Windows Media or AVI format, then watch them without the need for a battery-draining DVD drive.

Bottom line: it’s a $40 program available for $0. What’s not to like?

Bonus deal: I’m not a big fan of earbuds, which tend to make my ears sore after about 20 minutes. Indeed, sometimes you just want some old-school outside-the-ear ‘phones. Amazon has the Jabra Halo Bluetooth Stereo Headset for $35.99 shipped. These comfy, folding headphones also let you make and take phone calls. I own a pair, and they sound superb. Update: Looks like the sale is over; the Halo is now listed at $64.99.

Originally posted at The Cheapskate

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